Samoa PM announces All Blacks date
July 18, 2014
Fans re keen to see the All Blacks will perform their haka in Samoa in 2015 © Getty Images
New Zealand are set to play an historic Test against Samoa in Apia next year, according to the Samoan prime minister, but the All Blacks have yet to publicly confirm the news.
Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, who is also chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, said that he had received a confirmation letter from New Zealand Rugby and the fixture would go ahead on July 8, just days after the scheduled Super Rugby final.
The New Zealand Herald reported earlier this month that Samoa would host the All Blacks in a Test for the first time in 2015, as part of both teams' Rugby World Cup preparations. The newspaper reported that the respective unions had reached an agreement to stage the match in late July after the Super Rugby season, which next year will run through June due to the absence of European visiting tours in a World Cup season.
New Zealand Rugby chief Steve Tew said later in a statement that he "would very much like to take a match to Samoa" but the union had only "completed positive initial talks about the prospect of an All Blacks-Samoa Test with sponsors and the International Rugby Board, who had committed early support".
"Once we have worked these through, we would then be in a position to talk to Samoa Rugby," he said. "It's fair to say that a 2015 Test is a possibility. However, until we've worked through those important aspects, we're not in a position to confirm anything."
Tew and New Zealand Rugby have not responded to Tuilaepa's announcement of the July 8 fixture.
The teams have played each other in five Tests - all in New Zealand - but have not met since 2008. New Zealand Rugby has come under increasing pressure to play fixtures in the Pacific islands to support their neighbouring unions and to pay homage to the heritage of many All Black players.
The All Blacks are yet to play in Samoa, Fiji or Tonga, but they played Japan in Tokyo en route to Europe last year and New Zealand Rugby recently announced a Test against the United States in Chicago this year - a match that the Samoa Observer described as a "shameful Samoa snub".
Tew said in March "the reality for us is … we have to do what's best for New Zealand rugby, and playing an All Blacks Test match in the islands just doesn't suit our program". But the union has come under pressure for its stance since it revealed that it had made a $NZ850,000 (£430,000) profit from the one-off Test against Japan in front of 27,000 spectators in Tokyo last year.
US Rugby is reported to have paid New Zealand Rugby $US1 million (£580,000) to cover their costs with regards to the coming Chicago Test, for which more than 40,000 tickets are already thought to have been sold. By comparison, the Apia Park ground that would host the All Blacks in Samoa has a capacity of just 15,500
The All Blacks have played only 14 Tests against their Pacific neighbours - none before the 1987 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, and none after the 2011 tournament - and the announcement of the Chicago Test against the United States re-ignited the issue on the public agenda in New Zealand.
Popular television host John Campbell began a campaign to pressure New Zealand Rugby to send the All Blacks to Apia, and he presented his current affairs show Campbell Live live from North Harbour Stadium ahead of the Blues v Sharks Super Rugby match to start a petition for the All Blacks to play in Samoa. The #ABsToSamoa hashtag subsequently gained popular support on Twitter.
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